By Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman
The foundation of any science rests on a high quality nomenclature that can be consensually adopted, and on tools for measuring important constructs. A key construct in the new science of Positive Psychology is that of "character" - those characteristics that define what's best about people and the path to what positive psychology calls "the good life".
Though character has become a front-and-center topic in contemporary discourse, this term does not have a fixed meaning. Character may be simply defined by what someone does not do, but a more active and thorough definition is necessary, one that addresses certain vital questions. Is character a singular characteristic of an individual, or is it composed of different aspects? Does character - however we define it - exist in degrees, or is it simply something one happens to have? How can character be developed? Can it be learned? Can it be taught, and who might be the most effective teacher? What roles are played by family, schools, the media, religion, and the larger culture in the formation and understanding of character?
This ground breaking handbook of character strengths and virtues is the first progress report from a prestigious group of researchers who have, for the first time ever in such depth, undertaken the systematic classification and measurement of widely valued positive traits. They approach good character in terms of separate strengths - authenticity, persistence, kindness, gratitude, hope, humor, and so on - each of which exists in degrees.
The classification is the result of a thorough study of the philosophies of the antiquities, the major world religions, the distinctions offered by historic and current social organizations. Twenty four specific strengths under six broad virtues consistently emerged across history and culture: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each strength was thoroughly examined in its own chapter, with special attention given to its meaning, explanation, measurement, causes, correlates, consequences, and development across the life span, as well as to strategies for its deliberate cultivation. By providing a common vocabulary of measurable positive traits for researchers and practitioners, the authors laid a foundation for the development of a science of human strengths.
Character Strengths and Virtues presents positive psychology's first official classification system and demands the attention of anyone interested in psychology and what it can teach about the good life.
Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, 2004, American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press